The Environmental Science for Social Change (ESSC), with support from Xavier Network and the Philippine Province of the Society of Jesus, is assisting the relocation efforts of Barangay Cagaut to a safe site that they have named San Roque Ecovillage. Barangay Cagaut is a coastal village in Salcedo, Eastern Samar in the Philippines with around 200 households that experienced storm surge and strong winds from typhoon Haiyan, damaging houses and their fishing and seaweed faming livelihoods.
In its review of the sites for possible relocation housing support in Region 8 and hardest hit by typhoon Haiyan, ESSC developed a list of criteria for site selection and reviewed several sites. One of these was the municipality of Salcedo that requested support from ESSC to relocate 37 households in Barangay Cagaut. After typhoon Yolanda, Salcedo’s priority was to find ways to ensure building back better (BBB) through good governance and people’s participation in the rebuilding and relocation, and allocated resources to purchase land intended for relocation sites and their development.
Why build back better?
Building back better advances disaster risk resilience and improves resilience by building community participation as a critical input to local government advancement and responsibility.
The Philippines is in a post-Haiyan situation where restructure and redesign are happening. Lessons are being learnt from the disaster and are informing decisions and plans by communities and local governments. Building back better and safer with a local social economy is a guiding principle, and is a good time and opportunity to review and revise building standards, zoning plans and policies, and economic development programs that are socially inclusive. Networking and organizing allows for broader sharing of capacities, as more effective alliances and agreements are established amongst government, international agencies, professionals, and others from civil society.
In partnership with the Cagaut community and the local government, this two-year project that started December 2016 accompanies the community in the administrative, technical, social and financial aspects of a housing development. The accompaniment adopts an approach that is participatory and multi-stakeholder, promotes the integration of site assessment, and develops options for livelihood in the relocation process. These processes are key in building back better and safer homes and communities in a post-disaster context.
Community participation in building back better
Barangay Cagaut identified a 1.4-hectare lot that was subdivided, and housing lot allocations of 100 sqm each were apportioned to the housing beneficiaries that the community itself identified. The proposed relocation site is located on an elevated, broad hilltop, on the side of a gradual slope starting at >10 to 20 metres above sea level. The site does not have a large water catchment area behind it, eliminating flooding hazards and debris flows. The landslide hazard along the edges can be addressed by mitigation measures such as adequate easement of houses and a well-planned drainage system. The site is about 1.3 km from the actual coastline and will not suffer from any sea-based event. And because the relocation site is about 100 meters away from the current settlement, the households relocating are not significantly moved away from their livelihood sources.
Working with residents and the local government, the ESSC project will ensure that BBB construction materials and methods are carefully reviewed for durability, resilience, and safety, at the same time exploring what is economical without compromising safety.
The design incorporates material construction technologies that involve skills training for those in the community as a source of livelihood. Interlocking compressed earth blocks (ICEB) will be used for the walls, minimizing the extensive and expensive use of concrete hollow blocks and providing a sturdy alternative. Micro-concrete roofing (MCR) tiles are the alternatives to galvanized iron sheets for roofing material.
The ESSC project integrates the skills training of Cagaut housing beneficiaries and other community residents in MCR and ICEB production, eventually supplying their own roofing and walling materials for their houses. ESSC and the local government are keen to pursue both technologies as possible livelihood options in Cagaut.
For its part, the local government of Salcedo is undertaking site development planning and initial site works before housing construction. A geodetic re-survey of the housing site, staking of allocated housing lots, and development of the road and drainage systems are currently underway. ESSC has made it clear that housing construction will start when the roads and drainage are established, rather than putting these in after houses are put up.
Contributing to a more effective Jesuit global post-disaster response
ESSC is a Jesuit research and training institute in the Philippines that promotes environmental sustainability and social justice through the integration of scientific methodologies and social processes. ESSC also networks across the Asia Pacific region in moving an agenda of science for sustainability. Part of ESSC’s work is to contribute to disaster risk reduction by connecting people with the understanding of a hazard or a combination of hazards and help them find a more strategic way of coping that builds resilience in the long term.
Learning and understanding from past disasters, ESSC, through the Philippine Working Group (PWG) on disaster risk resilience, continues to engage with various partners and communities, acquiring valuable lessons from painful events, exploring ways to share a broader understanding of flooding and landslides, the critical need for site assessments in site selection for housing and other structures, the incorporation of the socio-economic needs of communities in post-disaster recovery and reconstruction, the need for standards and to follow these standards in materials and construction, greater accountability and transparency, capacity-building in local governments and communities for more effective DRR planning, integrating geohazards as a baseline in comprehensive land use planning, among others.
These are all elements of a building back better approach and where communities are part of the process. This relocation housing effort that intends to build back better in the Philippines contributes to global Jesuit collaboration in post-disaster response and where lessons can be learned for more effective local action.
For more information and to view or download the project brochure, please go to ESSC.